KUALA LUMPUR, July 2 — The Malaysian Bar calls on the government to form a Child Commission as a body to overview child marriages and all other issues pertaining children in Malaysia in light of the recent report on the marriage between a 41-year-old man and a 11-year-old girl.
Welcoming the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s recent remark that the marriage was unlawful, Malaysian Bar president George Varughese said it was troubling to see that child marriages for both Muslims and non-Muslims were not rare in the country.
In a statement here tonight, he said the Malaysian Bar suggested that the proposed commission should be headed by a commissioner with the power to address issues such as the inadequacies in the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 as well as the lack of care of children in the juvenile justice system and accountability of various agencies dealing with children issues.
He noted that between 2005 and 2015, a total of 10,240 Muslims applied for child marriage, while among non-Muslims, there were 7,719 applications from 2000 to 2014 for girls between 16 and 18 years old.
These alarming statistics are unacceptable and should serve as a wake-up call as to the gravity of the issue, he said.
All matters and decisions taken concerning a child must bear the child’s best interest as paramount, Varughese said.
Varughese said the Malaysian Bar also looked forward to the government instituting law reform and taking proactive steps to increase public awareness of the detrimental effects of marriage upon a child’s physical and mental health, education and economic opportunities as well as risk exposure to domestic and sexual abuse.
He added that the government bears a critical obligation to ensure the healthy development and protection of all children in the country, pursuant to its accession of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). — Bernama